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Gillespie Council approves water rate surcharges

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Park Avenue resident Stacey Hart again objected to extending Loveless’s conditional variance.

Gillespie Water Department customers will start paying an additional surcharge on their water bills as a result of action taken by the City Council on Monday night.

After a few minutes of confusion, the Council approved an ordinance calling for the addition of a $1 surcharge, increasing by $1 for the next six months and culminating in a total $12 surcharge on the base, minimum water bill. The ordinance also contains provisions to increase the bulk rate charge to satellite communities, which satellites presumably will pass on to their customers.

Initially, council members believed they were voting on the ordinance on a motion by Ald. Landon Pettit, but Pettit said he was actually moving to approve a resolution with the same identifying number as the ordinance. The council then re-voted on a motion by Ald. Dona Rauzi, seconded by Pettit to unanimously approve the ordinance.

The resolution, authorizing payment of $190 to Moran Economic Development, LLC., for administrative work completed in connection with a newly established Tax Increment Financing District, was approved earlier in the meeting. The payment will come from TIF funds generated by the district.

STREETSCAPE ENGINEER

A reluctant council narrowly approved retaining Curry and Associates Engineering, Inc., Nashville, as the coordinating engineering firm for the city’s upcoming Streetscape Development program in Downtown Gillespie. City Treasurer Dan Fisher recommended the action, after noting preliminary engineering and design work for the project have been completed. “We’re ready now for the final design and construction supervision,” he said.

Ald. Dave “Lumpy” Link asked if Fisher solicited bids for the project. Fisher replied that a solicitation for bids was advertised and Curry was the only firm to submit a formal proposal, along with required paperwork.  “We did have a couple of phone calls, but no one else submitted a proposal,” Fisher said.

On a motion by Ald. Frank Barrett, seconded by Rauzi, the council split 3-3 on approving Curry for the project, forcing Mayor John Hicks to cast the deciding vote.

“I’m going to vote yes to get this project going,” Hicks announced. “We’ve been on this for three years.”

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Ald. Rauzi commented that several downtown businesses had asked her to be notified when Streetscape work is planned in front of their business places. Some complained that when sewer improvements were done earlier in preparation for the Streetscape project, many stores were blindsided when work commenced in front of their business places. “They’d just like to have some notice when work is being done,” she said.

Later in the meeting, Ald. Pettit expanded upon his objection to hiring Curry and Associates, when the discussion turned to approving the city’s annual Motor Fuel Tax Resolution. Ultimately, the council approved the $525,000 resolution but not before Ald. Bob Fritz and Ald. Pettit voiced concerns about the document, which was prepared by the Curry engineering firm.

Essentially an appropriation document, the resolution establishes maximum expenditures for the city’s annual street maintenance program. The appropriation, however, is based on estimates determined by the engineer.

Fritz noted the resolution authorizes purchase of 500 tons of blacktop at $48 per ton.

“I don’t know where you can get blacktop for $48 a ton,” Fritz said. “It’s more like $100 a ton. There were five or six streets we didn’t get to do last year because we were short of oil. I don’t want to be limited because we can only buy 150 tons of blacktop.”

Fritz also pointed to a street that Curry estimated to be 17 feet wide, when the street actually is more than 20 feet wide, which will require more material to resurface.

Fisher said the council could table the resolution to five aldermen time to review the document and markup any deficiencies they find.

Ald. Landon Pettit objected to hiring Curry and Associates.

“I think that would be a good idea,” said Fisher. He said the total of Curry’s estimates come to $490,000, which the resolution sets the appropriation at $525,000—a cushion of $35,000. “You can make adjustments to that amount. You can make this for $600,000 if you want. You can also do a supplemental resolution later if it appears we are going to need more money.”

Pettit commented that Curry’s work on issues like the Motor Fuel Tax Resolution was part of the reason he voted against hiring the firm for the Streetscape Project.

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“How can you be an engineer and not know that asphalt is not $48 a ton?” he asked. “It’s over $90 a ton. There’s no reason for them not to know a street is not 17 feet wide. We have Google Maps. There’s no excuse for it. It’s shoddy work.” He suggested switching to a different engineering firm.

“I wouldn’t recommend switching horses in the middle of the stream,” Fisher said, reiterating his position that a supplemental resolution can be approved at a later date.

Ultimately, the council unanimously approved Ald. Link’s motion, seconded by Ald. Pettit, to approve the resolution as presented, with an eye toward approving a supplemental resolution later, if needed. The approved resolution will now be filed with the Illinois Department of Transportation which administers motor fuel tax distributions to municipalities.

CORNERSTONE TL RENTALS DISPLACEMENT

The council agreed to extend the variance for Tim Loveless to operate offices for Cornerstone TL Rentals in a residential area until at least the end of February, despite objections from one vocal Park Avenue resident. Loveless’s office at 210 Springfield Road was heavily damaged by fire last fall, after which he moved the office to a residence he owns on Park Avenue, pending repairs to the Springfield Road property. He originally pledged to be out of the Park Avenue location by Jan. 1, but faced delays in getting materials for the damaged building.

In the meantime, Loveless told the council Monday night, he entered into negotiations to purchase the former Drew Ford garage to house his business offices and equipment. A closing date for the purchase is set for Jan. 12, he said. The former business location on Springfield Road has a new roof, but still needs extensive renovation inside. Assuming he is able to move the location of his business, Loveless said he would either rent or sell the Springfield Road facility, once the interior is complete.

“What you’re asking is for the council to not take action while you get into the new building,” City Attorney Rick Verticchio summarized. “I think they will agree to that. It’s in the best interest of the city, and your neighbors on Park Avenue and Springfield Road, to have your business in the business district.What the council wants to know is whether you have a firm contract to buy the building and when you intend to move into town.”

Loveless said the contract is firm, adding he would need about a month and a half to make the move.

Responding to a question from Ald. Pettit, Loveless declined to confirm the number of rental residences he owns in the City of Gillespie.

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“What I’m getting at is it would cause a major problem if your business was disrupted,” Pettit said.

Loveless agreed, saying he paid $47,500 in property taxes last year.

Loveless told the council Monday night, he entered into negotiations to purchase the former Drew Ford garage to house his business offices and equipment.

Park Avenue resident Stacey Hart again objected to extending Loveless’s conditional variance.

“It’s a residential area,” she said. “I was told he would be out by the first. He doesn’t need to be there.” She said she and other residents have been inconvenienced by additional traffic and vehicles occasional blocking the street.

Ald. Rauzi, however, who represents the ward that includes Park Avenue said she has heard no other complaints from neighbors. The only objection she’s heard, she said, was from Hart during meetings of the council.

Later in the meeting, the council unanimously agreed to extend the conditional variance for Loveless, tentatively to the end of February, to allow time for him to move the business to the downtown area.

The council took no action, however, from a request from Brad Bunn to pay a $400 excavation bill he incurred to address a sewer issue. Burn said he hired Ranger Excavating after the sewer backed up into his basement, but the problem was later found to be a blockage in the main sewer. He said city crews made three attempts with a water jet to move the blockage.

Fisher recommended referring the issue to the Water and Sewer Committee.

“In the past, we haven’t paid anything,” Fisher said. “If he’s due a reimbursement and it’s against policy, the policy may have to be rescinded.”

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PROPERTY SALE

With Ald. Link abstaining, the council agreed to sell a city-owned parcel of vacant land behind Besserman’s Super Bowl and adjacent medical offices between Montani Avenue and Tower Road to Link for $5,049.50. Link submitted the higher of two bids for the property. Weye Schmidt, the unsuccessful bidder, offered $3,767 for the surplus property.

In a related matter, the council voted unanimously to declare as surplus and offer for sale a residence located at 503 West Chestnut Street. City Attorney Rick Verticchio said the court awarded the property to the city as a result of a public nuisance proceeding, and an individual had contacted the city to say he was interested in acquiring the residence in order to rehabilitate it.

“I told this individual the property would have to be declared excess property, and he would have to bid on it,” Verticchio said.

Acting on Verticchio’s advice, the council voted to declare the property as excess, and to advertise it for sale via sealed bids.

POLICE REPORTS

While no action was taken, several minutes of discussion were devoted to the issue of police enforcement at various intervals throughout the meeting.

Ald. Pettit urged the council to “take a look” at the city’s ordinance regarding campers within the city limits.

“We have people living in campers in town,” he said. “It seems to be a problem and it’s getting worse.”

City ordinance prohibits persons from using campers as a residence. According to Pettit, some of the campers are hooked up to propane but the offenders claim that is just to keep the camper warm and prevent pipes from freezing.

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“This problem is universal,” Verticchio said. “The problem is getting neighbors to testify.” If police issue a citation and it goes to court, the court will dismiss if no witnesses appear to testify. If the defendant testifies they aren’t living in the camper, the court has no choice but to dismiss the complaint. He agreed, however, to revisit the ordinance to require off-street parking for campers, and to include a variance for temporary housing in the event of a fire or other disaster.

Both Pettit and Ald. Link complained about lack of enforcement regarding parking violations. Link claimed a vehicle with a flat tire has been blocking one lane of traffic in the 300 block of West Spruce Street for two months. Fritz alleged vehicles on South Macoupin Street are parked facing the wrong direction.

Police Chief Jared DePoppe said patrolmen will issue citations if aldermen report the violations to him. Otherwise, they do not issue citations for violations they see because of time constraints.

Link asked DePoppe how many officers are on patrol at any one time.

“There’s always two on patrol,” DePoppe said. “When we are fully staffed, there are three.” He said one of the two officers patrol the south half of the city and Benld, while the other patrols the north side and East Gillespie.

OTHER ACTION

In other action, the council:

  • Voted to pay the $190 registration fee, plus meals and lodging, for Water Plant Operator Dave Pickett to attend an Illinois Rural Water Association Conference next month.
  • Agreed to raise wages by $1 per hour for non-union employees, including part-time and seasonal workers, to match raises given to union employees as a result of collective bargaining.
  • Took under advisement a proposed ordinance to set the cost of connecting to a new city water line at Gillespie Lake. Action on the ordinance is expected next month.
  • No action followed a 20-minute executive session to discuss legal issues and real estate.

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Court News

Macoupin County Courthouse News

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Cases filed during July 7 through July 13. Visit the “Court News” category under the “Community News” tab for other editions.

FELONIES

Timothy D. Conlee, 29 of Gillespie, is charged with aggravated fleeing or attempting to elude a peace officer, driving on a suspended license, and reckless driving in connection with a July 6 incident.

Dylan J. Arview, 25 of Benld, is charged with driving under the influence while license revoked or suspending, DUI, driving on a suspended license and driving 15-20 mph above the limit in connection with a July 5 incident.

Bobby L. Walker, 35 of Sorento, is charged with driving revoked/suspended with a DUI, driving on revoked license, operating an uninsured motor vehicle, displayed registration plate, and expired registration in connection with a June 27 incident.

Dustin W. Gooch, 34 of Beecher City, is charged with aggravated fleeing/bodily injury, unlawful display of a title, improper use of registration/title, operating an uninsured motor vehicle, and registration light in connection with a June 17 incident.

MISDEMEANORS

Jordan A. Black, 24 of Gillespie, is charged with battery/causing bodily harm in connection with a July 8 incident.

Dustin R. Stieglitz, 37 of Shipman, is charged with aggravated assault/use of a deadly weapon in connection to a June 29 incident.

Steven A. Kroll, 33 of Eagarville, is charged with resisting a peace officer, fire fighter, or corrections employee in connection with a June 26 incident.

TRAFFIC

David B. Brown, 58 of Virden, is charged with cancelled/revoked/suspended registration in connection with a July 3 incident.

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Jennifer L. Roberts, 47 of Worden, is charged with driving on a suspended license and operating an uninsured motor vehicle in connection with July 5 incident.

Andrew L. Connoyer, 31 of Bethalto, is charged with improper use of registration, driving 15-20 mph above the limit, and no valid registration in connection with July 7 incident.

Megan E. Bertoldi, 37 of Gillespie, is charged with leaving the scene in connection with July 11 incident.

DISSOLUTION OF MARRIAGE FILED

  • Tasha McQuay versus David McQuay

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Community News

School board disciplines staff member; hires AD and Student Services Coordinator

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In a relatively brief meeting Monday night, the Community Unit School District 7 Board of Education approved a “resolution of remedial warning” against an unidentified district teacher, and hired a new Student Services Coordinator and Athletic Director.

The actions followed an 80-minute executive session during which board members presumably primarily discussed personnel issues. The regular monthly meeting of the board was moved up by one week to fill key positions, such as the Athletic Director and Student Services Coordinator, prior to the start of the school year next month. The district was taken by surprise when former Student Services Coordinator Stephanie Bray and Athletic Director Mike Bertagnolli both announced their retirements within days of each other.

Supt. Shane Owsley said the resolution of remedial warning is a disciplinary action representing “a second strike, so to speak.” Neither the teacher or the nature of the infraction was disclosed in open session.

In other action, the board, voted unanimously to hire Shelsie Timmermeier as the district’s Student Services Coordinator for the 2024-25 school year, stepping into the vacancy created by Bray’s retirement, pending confirmation of certification and a background check. In a separate action, the board also appointed Timmermeier as an assistant high school women’s volleyball coach.

Jeremy Smith was hired, also by a unanimous vote, as the district’s Athletic Director for the 2024-25 school year. In a related matter, Smith’s resignation as middle school head baseball coach was accepted. Additionally, the board posted the coaching position as vacant for the coming school year.

On a motion by Weye Schmidt, seconded by Dennis Tiburzi, the board hired Alex Jasper as a high school social science teacher for the coming school year. The board also voted unanimously to hire Tate Wargo as a first-year, non-tenured physical education instructor, pending confirmation of certification. Both positions were vacated as a result of the sudden resignation of Dalton Barnes in April as head football coach, physical education teacher and social science teacher. 

In related matters, the board also hired Wargo Monday night as an eighth grade boy’s basketball coach, and accepted Jasper’s resignation as a district paraprofessional and posted the position as vacant.

In other personnel action, the board:

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  • Hired Amanda Ewin as a one-on-one aide.
  • Hired Anthony Kravanya as a freshman men’s basketball coach.
  • Appointed Melissa Heigert as a volunteer assistant high school softball coach.

In other action, the board gave routine approval to a list of policies provided by the Illinois State Board of Education. 

Supt. Owsley also provided a brief update on the progress being made on safety projects expected to be completed before the start of the school year, including installation of a new intercom system, a card-reader entry system and shatter-proof protective film on exterior windows.

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Community News

Gillespie Library, United Community Bank to host Fraud and Scam Prevention seminar on July 22

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Gillespie Public Library (Photo by Gillespie Public Library)

Friends of the Gillespie Public Library and United Community Bank are hosting a joint “Fraud and Scam Prevention” seminar at on Monday, July 22 starting at 6 p.m. at the Gillespie Public Library.

The seminar will focus on today’s common scams and frauds, which includes imposter and check scams, money mule fraud and those that target seniors. Presenters will be Jenni Alepra of Gillespie UCB and Kennen Bertolis of Carlinville UCB.

The seminar is open to the public and is free of charge. For additional questions, call the Gillespie Public Library at 217-839-3614.

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